Twenty female journalists were on Tuesday inducted as fellows of the Female Reporters Leadership Project (FRLP) by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) with the support of Free Press Unlimited.
The induction ceremony closes the six-month fellowship which entailed a four-day training, three-month mentorship, two-day share-fair as well as story and leadership projects that was executed by the fellows.
The event held in Lagos was lit with the experiences shared by the fellows. They told the untold stories, enunciated the impact their story and leadership projects had made, not only on the people they engaged but on themselves. A common expression among them was “I am now a better person”.
The 2019 Fellowship which is the third in the series received 207 applications from nine countries from which the 20 fellows included a reporter from Ghana were selected.
The 2019 Fellows are Shola Soyele of Channels Television, Omobola Farayola of Daar Communications, Temitope Omogbolagun of Punch Newspaper, Michelle Agoh of Lagos Talks FM, Omobolanle Adesuyi of Metropolitan Broadcasting Services, Chika Mefor of Leadership Newspaper, Tijesu Adeoye of Television Continental, Josephine Akonor of Ghana Business News, Justina Asishana of The Nation Newspaper, Omolabake Fasogbon of ThisDay Newspaper.
Others include Amaka Omoye of Plus Tv Africa, Lami Sadiq of Daily Trust Newspaper, Nkechi Macaulay of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Kikelomo Oduyebo of Lagos Television, Elfredah Kevin-Alerechi of Today95.1FM, Theresa Igomu of The Sun Newspaper, Modupeoluwa Shoremekun of Silverbird Television, Emiene Erameh of Nigeria Info 95.1FM, Azeezat Adedigba of Premium Times and Annette Jeje of Daar Communications.
Winding down the event, certificates were presented to all the fellows and awards to the top three. Adedigba won the overall prize for the fellowship with a story published on Premium Times in October that focuses on the health risks associated with the use of firewood. The story sheds light on how 93,000 women and children die annually from smoke inhaled while using firewood to cook.
Soyele and Igomu emerging as runners up. While Adedigba was awarded with N200.000 and a brand new HP laptop, Soyele got N150.000 and a laptop and Igomu got N100,000 and a brand new HP laptop.
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To open the event on Tuesday, a 15-minute documentary chronicling the exciting ride of the twenty fellows with their mentors including veteran broadcaster, Bimbo Oloyede; Executive Director of Media Career Development Network, Lekan Otufodunrin, Deputy Director, Enterprise Development Centre at the Pan-Atlantic University, Nneka Okekearu; and Board Chair of the NigeriaInfo Radio Group, Rotimi Sankore as well as the WSCIJ was viewed.
Motunrayo Alaka, Executive Director/CEO of WSCIJ, in a video message, reiterated the need for the fellows to be intentional about changing the stories of women in Nigeria and the leadership status of females in the newsroom. She noted that mainstreaming gender requires the involvement of all irrespective of their gender.
Alaka said: “It is not a his and hers war; this is really about humanity and the dignity of human beings, whether male or female. And so, let us continue to ensure that we include others as we do this campaign especially our male counterparts”.
Speaking on the journey of the 2019 Report Women! FRLP fellows, their story and leadership projects, and their testimonies about how the fellowship has impacted them, Toyin Adeniran, a Programme Officer with the WSCIJ, challenged the fellows to continue to stir actions that would eventually catalyse into solutions for generations now and hereafter.
The stories they implemented mirrored the realities of today’s women and girls and the stereotypic glass ceilings that must be broken in order to make the change desired in our world possible. The fellows looked into various core issues plaguing the female gender like education – out-of-school children; health/mental health resulting from traumatic experiences, among many others.
Congratulating the fellows, mentors and the WSCIJ, Davide Soto Naranjo, Program Coordinator, FPU expressed that they were proud of the hard work and the investigations carried out on issues that are vital not only for women but for the society as a whole. “We trust that you have what it takes to be true leaders of social change,” he said.
Lekan Otufodunrin, representing the mentors, commended the WSCIJ and the Free Press Unlimited for the worthy initiative, which according to him, is very unique and intentional in many ways.
He charged the fellows to keep at setting the pace for other female journalists. He said: “You must continue to be good ambassadors of this project by raising the bars in your performance in your various organisations. Own your leadership projects and scale them up as some of you are already doing.”
Abosede Omoruyi, a broadcaster with TVC News, and Public Relations Officer of Report Women Network (REWoN), the alumnae network of the Report Women! FRLP, welcomed the new cohort of fellows into the network. She mentioned that November was adopted the REWoN month and the network ensures that stories that amplify the wins and woes of women and girls are pushed out in the month for impact.
Funke Treasure Durodola, a former Assistant Director of Programmes, Lagos Operations of FRCN commended the WSCIJ for the commitment in keeping the initiative running year after year, and better. She told the fellows that it is not enough to do stories, but to follow-up these stories until it yields the aspired results.
While closing the event, Adeolu Adekola, Senior Programme Officer, noted that the journey has just begun for the new fellows.
“Celebrate your wins today, but going forward, look at the bigger picture; ensure that your gender lens is always on. When it looks like it’s getting rusty, dust it and sharpen yourselves over and over again,” he said.
Adekola appreciated the mentors for their time and effort at keeping the participants on their toes; the WSCIJ team for their undaunting commitment to the project; and the guest presents for making out time to attend the event.
The FRLP Fellowship is aimed at equipping female reporters with the skill, finesse, support and tool to reach the top echelon of authority in their media houses while driving lasting and far-reaching changes within their spaces and in the society.